To Be Content… Or to Contend

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. With apologies to my friends who see contentment as the pinnacle of spiritual aspiration, I am NOT content. Not in any measure. That is not the question. The question I wrestle with is one of those evil “shoulds”…. i.e. Should I be content?

I looked up content in my Websters 1828 Dictionary and noticed that right next to it is the word contend. Just change the t to a d and you more accurately define my normal state.

Content: Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire, and often implying a moderate degree of happiness.

Contentment: Content; a resting or satisfaction of mind without disquiet; acquiescence. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” I Tim. vi

Contend: To strive, or to strive against; to struggle in opposition.

I am not content. This does not mean I am not grateful. I am filled with gratitude for just about everything in my life. But I do not have that “satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint, opposition, or further desire…” Just ask my husband, Steve. I complain daily, I oppose, and I have many further desires that are far from being satisfied.

And to throw a little guilt on top of it, dear Mr. Webster quotes the Bible saying Godliness with Contentment is great gain. Good grief. I don’t feel very godly, and I know I’m not content, so I guess I can kiss off any hope of great gain!

So “should I be content”? I remember reading in one of John Eldridge’s books (highly recommend anything by John Eldridge), that the problem with us Christians is not that we desire too much, but that we are too easily satisfied with so little. Somehow we think wanting is sinful. I will tell you what I want..

I want us to stop playing small. Especially us women. We ask so little of ourselves and of others. There is this deep primal insecurity that teaches us that we are not worthy to be loved. I have talked to so many women, both clients and friends, who are picking up the pieces of their shattered dreams, wondering why they keep getting into relationships with men who only use and discard them, like disposable toys.

While talking about this recently with a friend, she asked me “What’s up with these men?” I asked her “What’s up with these women?” Why do we sell ourselves so cheaply? We’re so desperate for someone to love us, that we give it all away for a cheap imitation. AARRGGHH!! It makes me crazy!

I am NOT content to sit by idly, wasting my life away silently, while that bright creative light in a little girl’s eyes slowly dims as she hears and believes the lie that she is “stupid”, “ugly”, “weak”, “over-emotional”, and “just a girl”.

I have this in me in spades. I’m the ultimate pleaser. I’ll do whatever I can to avoid offending anyone, to be liked. My own personal boundaries disappear so that you will “love” me. I’m thinking about all those female country artists begging their man to lie to them so they can sleep with them just one more time. Puhleese! It’s pathetic.

You are a beautiful, powerful, unique daughter of God, with a heart, a mind, a voice, and a body that are yours alone to use. Do not give them away to anyone who does not respect that. Period.

Maybe I feel so passionate about this because of my own discontent. I’ll be 50 next year and I’m looking back on my life realizing how many many choices I have made from a place of doubt about who I am. I doubted my intuition, doubted my desires, doubted my gifts and abilities, and mistrusted my feminine sensuality. Oh I had, and still have, a healthy dose of arrogance about who I’m “supposed” to be. But when it came down to choosing Option A, what I truly wanted, or Option B, what others wanted, I almost always went with Option B, the one that would gain me someone’s approval. I so longed for someone to just tell me what I was “supposed” to do, that I actually did what just about anyone whose approval I wanted told me to do. Rather than choosing out of a deep confidence in who I was, I became what others wanted me to be.

I have a life-long secret admiration for the rebels. For those who all their life, spoke up and resisted those authority figures who tried to put them in a box. I know, they’re the one’s who “had to learn the hard way”, who got the snot beat out of them in life. But they’re also the ones who today are unafraid to speak their minds, to take risks, to embrace life with passion and gusto.

While they were being the “bad” kids and causing their poor parents so much grief, the rest of us were batting our eyes, smiling sweetly, and learning how to stuff ourselves into a comfortable mold that received all the pats on the back, all the you’re-going-to-go-far,-kids. We were the ones the adults used to measure their own miscreants against.

I used to recoil when I would see that bumper sticker that says, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” Now, at the age of 49, it’s becoming my clarion call. (Better late than never my mother always said.)

So no, with more apologies to all my spiritual friends, I am NOT content to be content any longer. And I invite my friends to consider whether you are content either.

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